Published On By Rachel Nall

Trichotillomania OverviewTrichotillomania is a mental health condition indicated by persistent and uncontrollable urges to stretch out hair from the scalp, eyelashes, or other body parts.

People affected by Trichotillomania may experience intense tension before pulling out their hair, followed by a sense of relief afterward.

This disorder falls under the category of body-focused repetitive behaviors, where the act of hair-pulling serves as a way to cope with stress or anxiety.

The impact of Trichotillomania can be profound, leading to visible signs such as patchy bald spots that can cause distress and affect various aspects of daily life.

Trichotillomania Overview

Trichotillomania (TTM) falls under the class of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) but involves hair pulling rather than obsessions.

The severity of TTM could lead to distress, affecting daily functioning and emotional stability.

Trichotillomania poses challenges that could affect personal and professional relationships.

The influence of this condition extends beyond physical appearance, influencing the emotional and psychological health of those affected.

Symptoms Of Trichotillomania

  • Intense Urge to Pull Hair: People with Trichotillomania may experience a compelling urge to pull out their hair, often feeling a sense of tension that escalates until the hair is pulled.
  • Relief After Pulling Hair: After pulling out hair, there is a feeling of relief or pleasure in people with Trichotillomania, which could reinforce the behavior and create a cycle of hair pulling.
  • Hair Pulling in Response to Stress: Trichotillomania is often triggered by stress or anxiety, with people resorting to hair pulling as a coping mechanism to alleviate emotional discomfort.
  • Hair Pulling Without Thinking: People may sometimes unconsciously pull hair, highlighting its automatic and compulsive nature.

How Common Is Trichotillomania?

The following table outlines the estimated prevalence rates among different age groups to provide a clearer perspective on Trichotillomania.

Age Group Estimated Prevalence
Children 1%-2%
Adolescents 2%-4%
Adults 0.5%-3.4%
Women Higher
Men Lower

Impact Of Trichotillomania

The impact of Trichotillomania on the body varies significantly depending on the age of the person affected by this compulsive hair-pulling disorder. People dealing with Trichotillomania may find hair-pulling a self-soothing act. However, the repetitive pulling can result in noticeable hair loss, leading to distress and potential social challenges.

  1. Trichophagia

    Trichophagia affects about 20% of people with Trichotillomania and poses significant risks to their health. The ingestion of hair could result in the formation of hairball-like blockages in the digestive tract, potentially causing serious health issues. These blockages may lead to severe complications, including requiring surgical procedures to repair the damage caused.

  2. Mental Health Effects

    People with Trichotillomania may experience anxiety, embarrassment, and shame, which can significantly impact their work and social interactions. It may lead to avoiding treatment out of embarrassment.

    The emotional toll of living with Trichotillomania can be profound, affecting self-esteem, relationships, and overall mental health.

    The societal stigma surrounding Trichotillomania may worsen the psychological burden on people, contributing to feelings of isolation and alienation.

    The lack of understanding and awareness about this condition in the general population can further perpetuate feelings of shame and hesitation to seek help.

  3. Hair, Skin & Tissue Damage

    Trichotillomania could lead to significant skin and tissue damage, with potential consequences such as the need for repair or skin grafting.

    The damage caused by hair pulling might lead to permanent hair loss in the inflamed areas. People grappling with Trichotillomania may face challenges in managing the urge to pull their hair and also in dealing with the physical ramifications on their skin and tissues.

    Effects of Skin and Tissue Damage Consequences
    Skin abrasions and sores Increased risk of infection
    Tissue inflammation and scarring Impaired skin healing process
    Damage to hair follicles Potential for permanent hair loss
    Discoloration and pigmentation changes Altered skin appearance
    Pain and discomfort Negative impact on daily activities


Causes Of Trichotillomania

Genetic factors with certain DNA mutations possibly contribute to the onset of Trichotillomania. However, research is ongoing to confirm the exact genetic links to this disorder.

People with Trichotillomania often exhibit changes in specific brain areas or differences in brain chemistry, suggesting a neurological component to the condition.

These alterations in brain function may influence the compulsive behavior of hair-pulling. Pulling hair may work as a coping mechanism for stress or boredom.

Many people report that their hair-pulling habits began during challenging periods in their lives, where pulling hair provided a sense of relief or distraction. Over time, this behavior could become infused as a habitual response to emotional triggers.

Difference Between Trichotillomania & Obsessive-compulsive Disorder

Trichotillomania (TTM) involves irresistible urges to pull out hair, providing a sense of relief or reward upon doing so. This act is a self-soothing behavior without the presence of obsessions seen in OCD.

People with OCD experience intrusive thoughts or urges that lead to repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing anxiety without the same positive emotional response seen in TTM.

TTM could manifest through hair-pulling rituals, resulting in visible signs like patchy bald spots or missing eyelashes. OCD may involve ritualistic behaviors aimed at managing obsessive thoughts.

The emotional responses in OCD and TTM may differ significantly. People with TTM may experience relief or pleasure post-hair pulling. At the same time, anxiety or discomfort is typically associated with OCD symptoms.

People Affected By Trichotillomania

Trichotillomania exhibits a distinct prevalence in children and adolescents, with the more severe form typically emerging between the ages of 10 and 13.

  1. Prevalence in Children and Adolescents: Trichotillomania could be common in younger age groups, with children and adolescents being affected by this condition.
  2. Equal Occurrence in Children: Trichotillomania affects both male and female children equally, showing no significant gender-based difference in prevalence.
  3. Gender Disparity in Adults: However, as people grow into adulthood, there is a noticeable shift, with women outnumbering men by as much as 9 to 1 in terms of experiencing Trichotillomania.

Diagnosis & Test Of Trichotillomania

Health experts may conduct a physical examination to identify visible signs of the condition and gather relevant health history information when diagnosing Trichotillomania.

  • Observation: Doctors look for physical signs such as patchy hair loss, bald spots, or missing eyelashes, which are common indicators of TTM.
  • Inquiry: Questions about hair-pulling behaviors, triggers, stressors, and emotional responses may help understand the extent and impact of TTM on a person's life.
  • Assessment: Evaluating the frequency and intensity of hair pulling, any associated rituals, and the level of distress experienced in various settings helps confirm a TTM diagnosis.
  • Collaboration: In some cases, collaborating psychologists or psychiatrists might be necessary to establish a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan for TTM.

Recommended Test For Trichotillomania

Doctors can recommend a ‘punch biopsy' in certain cases to confirm a diagnosis of Trichotillomania. In this procedure, a skin sample is taken for laboratory analysis.

This test may serve the dual purpose of confirming Trichotillomania and ruling out other skin conditions that might be causing hair loss or hair pulling.

Additional diagnostic tests like a computerized tomography scan could assess for blockages and blood tests and check for anemia or other related health concerns.

Treatments For Trichotillomania

  1. Therapies

    1. Habit Reversal Therapy: This method may increase awareness of behaviors and activity patterns, assisting in breaking habits like hair pulling. It may help treat Trichotillomania as it could focus on habit reversal, leading to long-term behavioral changes.
    2. Group Therapy and Peer Support: People with Trichotillomania may benefit from participating in therapy sessions or peer support groups. These forums may allow people to share experiences, coping strategies, and emotional support with others facing similar challenges.
    3. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT): CBT may help people with Trichotillomania identify and modify negative thought patterns and behaviors associated with hair pulling. CBT might help reduce the urge to pull hair by addressing underlying triggers and developing healthier coping mechanisms.
    4. Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Practices such as mindfulness meditation and relaxation techniques may help people with Trichotillomania manage stress, anxiety, and impulsivity, reducing the urge to engage in hair-pulling behaviors. Including mindfulness in treatment plans could promote self-awareness and emotional regulation.
  2. Medications

    Persistent hair-pulling can be stressful. However, medications like antidepressants, antipsychotics, and anticonvulsants can assist in controlling the impulses and behaviors associated with this condition.

    • Antidepressants like SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants can help reduce the impulse to pull hair. These medications could help in managing the urges associated with Trichotillomania by altering brain chemistry.
    • Antipsychotic medications may help balance brain chemistry. They could help address the underlying factors contributing to compulsive hair-pulling.
    • Anticonvulsants may help manage seizures and muscle movement disorders, which might treat Trichotillomania.

Complications Of Trichotillomania

Pulling out hair might result in emotional distress, causing frustration, shame, embarrassment, and a lack of control over this behavior.

People may experience low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety and might turn to alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms.

Trichotillomania might lead to problems in social situations and at work. Hair loss may prompt people to withdraw from social activities, educational opportunities, or job prospects.

Some may resort to wearing wigs, styling their hair to hide bald patches, or using false eyelashes to conceal the effects of hair pulling. Intimacy may also be avoided to keep the Trichotillomania condition hidden from others.

The physical consequences of Trichotillomania can be severe. Constant hair pulling may cause skin damage, scarring, and infections, which could impair hair growth permanently.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can Trichotillomania Be Triggered or Worsened by Weather Changes?
    No. Trichotillomania cannot be directly triggered or worsened by specific seasons or weather changes. It could be triggered by anxiety, stress, or boredom. Understanding and managing the underlying causes and triggers of hair-pulling disorder through therapy and support are essential.
  2. Is There a Link Between Trichotillomania and Other Body-Focused Repetitive Behaviors?
    There is a link between body-focused repetitive behaviors like skin picking, nail-biting, and Trichotillomania. These behaviors share underlying psychological mechanisms and may co-occur in people, often serving as coping strategies or responses to stress.
  3. How Does Trichotillomania Impact Relationships With Family Members or Partners?
    Trichotillomania may cause emotional strain due to compulsive hair-pulling behaviors. Understanding, support, and open communication are crucial in navigating the challenges posed by this condition.
  4. Are There Any Alternative or Complementary Therapies That Help In Managing Trichotillomania Symptoms?
    Mindfulness-based stress reduction, commitment therapy, and acupuncture could help manage Trichotillomania symptoms.


Trichotillomania could affect your physical appearance by causing hair loss due to persistent and intense hair pulling.

People often encounter this disorder due to loneliness, boredom, heightened stress levels, or extreme frustration.

However, taking a soothing bath, squeezing a stress ball, or deep breathing until the hair-pulling goes off might help you control your fierce actions.

You can also seek support from a therapist or a health expert to create healthy coping strategies and control impulses.

  • The information in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be considered medical advice.
  • It is not recommended to disregard/delay seeking professional medical advice or treatment because of what you read or accessed through this article.
  • The results may vary from individual to individual.
  • It is recommended to consult your doctor for any underlying medical conditions or if you are on any prescribed medicines before trying any tips.

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